I’ve been doing a lot of talking about podcasting recently: explaining to people what it is, and how they can do it, and how they can listen, and how it works. I thought it might be useful to provide a very simple step by step illustration of how to “subscribe to a podcast.”
I’ll use the podcast for BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent as an example. If you visit the show’s website, you’ll see a new “XML” button labelled “subscribe to the series of podcasts” and providing a URL for the “podcast feed:”
The “podcast feed” URL is the address of a specially encoded page on the BBC’s server that contains information about the podcast. If you look at it in a web browser, it will look confusing
But you’re not meant to look at this “raw” data; instead you copy the URL into a piece of “podcatching” software — a sort of “radio” to podcasting’s “transmitter.” There are many different podcatching applications available, and there’s something for you no matter what sort of computer you have.
I use NetNewsWire myself: it’s a very well-designed and mature application that exists primarily as a “newsreader” tool for reading weblogs, but has recently been extended with “podcatching” capabilities. So I start up NetNewsWire and then click its Subscribe icon, paste in the “podcast feed” URL I got from the BBC website, and click the Subscribe button:
The result? Following the arrows I’ve added in the screen shot below clockwise from the top-left, you’ll see an entry for the From Our Own Correspondent in the list of podcasts I’ve subscribed to, a list of the recent “episodes,” with the “publication date” for each, and, because I’ve selected the Thursday, May 26 episode, the details about the episode below, along with a link to download the audio into my iTunes:
In the case of NetNewsWire, the program doesn’t automatically go out and fetch the audio for existing programs (this prevents it from downloading hundreds of megabytes of old shows); however the next time the BBC updates the From Our Own Correspondent podcast, NetNewsWire, because of the way I’ve got it set up…
…will automatically download the audio, transfer it to my iTunes, put it in a playlist called “Podcast” and set the genre to “Podcast.” Here what my iTunes “Podcast” playlist looks like after NetNewsWire has been running for a while and a bunch of new podcasts have flowed in, including, highlighted at the top, a new From Our Own Correspondent:
And that’s it. The whole idea is that I subscribe to a podcast and from then on the audio for each new episode automatically shows up on my iPod.
Although the process above is certainly more complex than it will eventually be, it’s become easy enough to grasp that most anyone can become a podcast listener without much effort.
If you have any questions about how to do this yourself, feel free to ask in the comments to this post.